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Troubled Corporatism: Social Interventions in China’s Era of Public Procurement and Social Management

April 2, 20198:00 am5:00 pm

Against the background of the recent reconsolidation of authoritarianism, Peng will examine the re-emergence of corporatism, yet in a more marketized form, between the Chinese state and grassroots NGOs. Attempting to keep social unrests at bay with limited personnel and expertise, the Chinese local states seek to incorporate grassroots NGOs to establish social service programs that aims to improve the livelihood of marginalized populations, such as internal migrant workers; on the other hand, cut off from overseas funding and facing increasing political risks, NGOs collaborate with the state for resources and endorsement. In recent years, this collaborative relationship is established through a more institutionalized public procurement system and governed by formal contracts.
Based on participant observation and interview data, Peng’s comparative case study illustrates two models through which the state-NGO coalition is formed and how, in each model, different state logics shape the designs of state-sponsored, NGO-run social programs. In the top-down model of state deployment, social programs are established by fitting in with standardized measurements on public tender paperwork at the cost of the local knowledge of the served community; in the bottom-up model of grassroots advocacy, by contrast, social programs take advantage of their community engagement to stand out before state officials as political showcases. By contrasting these two models, Peng will conclude that the emerging corporatism is troubled by a dilemma: the state deployment model pursues universality while sacrificing efficacy, whereas programs based on grassroots advocacy are effective but difficult to apply across-the-board.
About the Speaker:

Thomas Peng is a Ph.D. Candidate in Department of Sociology at UC Berkeley. Throughout his graduate study, he has been interested in how the daily life experience (or politics of everyday life) and work experience (or politics of production) interact with each other. His dissertation project, in particular, explores how the career experience of Chinese internal migrants shapes the social relations within urban poor neighborhoods/ migrant enclaves, and how this community-level social formation is interrelated with grassroots governance.

Before coming to Berkeley, Thomas received his M.A. in sociology and China studies from National Tsinghua University in Taiwan. His academic interests include labor process, work and occupation, (uneven) development and the Chinese working people, both within and outside of industrial sector.


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